There’s comfort food, and then there’s comfort food. Any type of roast is automatically a contender in my book. I’ll make a roast at least twice a month. I get groans from family and friends–“again?” they ask. Chuck is usually a cheap cut of meat and I can stretch this meal for a week in a house of just two people. It helps finish off a bottle of wine and I also get to use one of my favorite ingredients from my youth – Vidalia onions.
You see, down here in the south, sweet onions are the only onion, really. Sure, visit the local megamart and spy the red onion and the white onion and those little yellow ones in the bag, but Vidalias are cheap, plentiful, and what my family always used whenever onions were needed. There are imposters, yes, but only a true Vidalia hails from the eponymous little town in Georgia where they were accidentally discovered during the Great Depression. How exactly is an onion discovered, you ask? Well, the farmers there were attempting to grow regular yellow onions, but discovered that upon harvest, the onions were sweet–a subsequent soil analysis discovered a distinct lack of sulfur is to blame. Because they are less astringent, they should be stored in a cool place, such as the refrigerator, or as at my house, in a bushel basket over an air vent.
by Jason Osborne
- 2-3 lb chuck roast
- 2-3 tbsp canola oil
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 1 large onion, preferably sweet like Vidalia or Maui, if you must.
- 3 ribs celery
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 bundle thyme (3 sprigs)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 cup good red wine (pref: Cote du Rhone)
- 1 chicken or vegetable bullion cube
- 14 oz jar of crushed tomatoes
Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medum high heat until it begins to shimmer. Salt the meat and place into the pan to sear – do not move the meat until it releases. It will release when it is appropriately seared. Flip and repeat, searing all sides to a very crusty brown. Remember, brown food tastes good!
Remove meat and set aside. Turn the heat down a bit and add the mirepoix, sweating the veg until they are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so more. Deglaze the pan with wine, scraping up the bits. Add the tomatoes, stock, the bullion cube, and the herbs. Because it’s a pain to strip the leaves from thyme stems, grab a few and tie them up with kitchen twine, then you can fish them out later. Who has time for Thyme?
Return the meat to the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook over medium-low for two hours, or until tender. Alternatively, you could cook this in a 350 oven for two hours or in the slow cooker for 8 hours on low.
When time is up, skim some of the fat from the top and fish out the thyme bundle and bay leaves. I remove the meat to foil and allow it to rest. Take two or three heavy ladles from the pan and puree in the blender or food processor, then return to the pan. Bring the now chunky sauce to a boil and reduce by one-third.
Carve the meat and serve with the sauce over your choice of lovely starches–polenta, grits, mashed new potatoes, white rice, barley. The possibilities are endless!